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UDS maiden voyage.....so many questions

Discussion in 'UDS Builds' started by smokingowl, Feb 28, 2011.

  1. smokingowl

    smokingowl Newbie

    I had the maiden voyage for my first UDS build this past weekend………so many questions.

    First, let me give you some specs. It is your typical UDS build:
    • 3-1 in. holes, 2 inches from the bottom (2 with ¾ steel nipples and the 3rd with a ¾ ball valve.)
    • Food grate 7 inches from the top (I’m using a domed lid)
    • Another grate 14 inches from the top  - I’m using this to hold a drip pan.
    • Small steel brackets were welded in the drum instead of drilling holes for bolts to hold the grates. I lucked out with that, my father-in-law can weld.
    • Charcoal basket made with expanded metal, charcoal grate, and pizza pan. Diameter is 13.5 in., it’s about 8 in. high and I’m using 4 in. bolts so that it stands 3 inches above the pizza pan.
    Here was the game plan:
    • 11lb. brisket
    • Charcoal basket pretty much full, approx. 10 lbs of Royal Oak natural lump charcoal (stuff you can get at wal-mart) and I put in maybe 8 chunks of hickory (size of half a fist or smaller) mixed with the charcoal.
    • Began with approx. half a chimney starter of charcoal. I made sort of a dip/hole in the charcoal and dumped the lit charcoals into that spot.
    Weather conditions: It was extremely windy and about 45-50 degrees.

    What happened:

    It started with thick white smoke, then after a while there was some nice thin blue smoke, but this lasted 2 hours at the most. After that I could no longer see any smoke, even at times when the wind slowed down. The temp held fairly well. I adjusted with the valves from time to time, but 10 hours in it lost steam and I had to finish in the oven. I looked at the charcoal and it pretty much all burned up excluding a few small pieces.

    The result:

    There was a very small smoke ring in the brisket and not much smoke flavor. I was very disappointed.

    • What the heck happened? I read stories of how a UDS can last 15+ hours, but mine only lasted to 10.
    • Did I start with too much lit charcoal? Is my basket too small and I need to have more charcoal to burn?
    • How do you produce smoke for several hours without adding more wood?
    • Did the windy conditions cause some of the problems?
    Any help or guidance will be appreciated. Thanks!
  2. wesb

    wesb Fire Starter

    here's what i do, i place a coffee can with the bottom cut out, in the center of the fire basket, place unlit lump and wood around that, and shake it around every so often to settle it in. if its too loose it seems to go through the fuel quicker and more unevenly. then get about a third of chimney of lump good and hot, dump it down the coffee can, and pull the can out with pliers cause it gets hot fast. let the smoke settle down, start cooking. i have found that some bags of royal oak arent all they're cracked up to be. but i still use it, though i'm growing partial to ozark oak.
  3. smokingowl

    smokingowl Newbie

    That makes sense. Thanks for the help.
  4. tyotrain

    tyotrain Master of the Pit

    I also do the coffee can trick it works well.. [​IMG]
  5. chef willie

    chef willie Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    Well, I switched to a gasser after a few smokes in my old ECB but I found I had to monitor the temp gauge in the chamber and keep adding chimneys of charcoal along the way as the temp dropped to keep an even temp going instead of loading it up heavy at the start. Same with the wood chunks I was using....as the smoke thinned out to almost nothing I would add another chunk or two to keep the TBS as steady as I could. Took a while to get it dialed in depending on the weather etc but it worked for my unit.
  6. SmokinAl

    SmokinAl SMF Hall of Fame Pitmaster Staff Member Moderator OTBS Member ★ Lifetime Premier ★

    I think you just need to learn your new smoker. With my WSM I load the charcoal ring with charcoal & chunks and put 8 lit coals on top in the middle, it will burn for 10-12 hours & hold a steady temp with nice TBS. It took me a while to figure out how to do that & WSM's are pretty easy to operate.
  7. ak1

    ak1 Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    IMO, your drip pan is killing the heat. I don't have one and I can run about 20 hrs with a load of charcoal, before I have to play with the valve. I go about 30 hrs before I completely burn out 10lbs of charcoal.
  8. smokingowl

    smokingowl Newbie

    That is true, I just need to learn how the drum works. Also, I will try it without the drip pan. I figured I would use a drip pan because I kept reading about some people don't like the flavor from smoke caused by drippings hitting the charcoal. Is the flavor really strong? I can't say I have tasted this before, so I guess I can try it and see what happens.
  9. rbranstner

    rbranstner Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    How big is your fire basket? I agree that your drip pan may be restricting the air flow and causing the fire to go out. I can go 20+ hours on my UDS as well. Give it a few more time and you will pick up little tricks and you will have that drum figured out in no time. It just takes a few smokes to figure out how it wants to run.
  10. meateater

    meateater Legendary Pitmaster SMF Premier Member

    To much air intake is the only reason that your fuel source burnt up that quick. I'm missing the temps of your UDS. I run mine at 250* solid at the lid with a water pan. A few good therms placed in different locations on the drum and a seperate digital wireless in the meat will keep you from guessing and help you learn your smoker. How many hours did it take to finish that brisket and what temp was it when finished, this will help us in figuring out to get you on the right track. [​IMG]
  11. ak1

    ak1 Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    Drippings falling onto the coals, is one of the unique things about a UDS. That's one of the things that give the food a unique flavour compared to other smokers.
  12. smokingowl

    smokingowl Newbie

    The temps were staying in the range of 220-240, but it was really windy that day. Maybe that contributed to the swings in temp, but for the most part it held steady around 230. The brisket was at 168 when I ran out of charcoal (10 hours). I finished it in the oven at 240 (I know that is high, but at that point I was frustrated and ready for it to be done) and it took about 2 hours to get to 190. Total time was right around 12 hours.
  13. tom37

    tom37 Master of the Pit OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    If you ate it, then it was a success!!! 

    My drums do not have a water pan, or a drip pan, well my drip pan is under the coal basket. 

    I have no problem at all running 20 hours and even up to 30 at times. I burn kingsford char lump most of the time to get these burn times. Kingsford briquettes might get me half this time. 

    I have to agree with AK that the drippings allow you to have that unique flavor that everyone loves. 

    Good luck and keep at it, all good things come with time.